That anxiety triples when we turn our manuscript over to a critique partner.
I'm still months (years??) away from experiencing that dread as my manuscript is nowhere near ready for critical eyes. No, for now I'm on the other side of the fence. I'm critiquing a friend and fellow author's debut novel. I thought it'd be less difficult, over here. It isn't.
Offering up positive feedback is easy, especially given this particular writer's immense creativity, depth of God-given talent, and vivid, emotional authorial style. She blows me away. But a critique full of glowing compliments centered on what's working in the story isn't going to help ready the manuscript for publication.
Here's what all writers know to be true: When you write a story -- particularly a novel-length story -- the challenge is to convey what's in your head to your readers. We know what's going to happen in chapter 25, so it's very easy to forget to include a vital clue in chapter 10. We understand what makes a secondary character tick, so accidentally omitting the root of her motivations during a heated scene easily goes unnoticed by us. We need a pair (several!) of fresh eyes to point out our lapses in description or holes in our plots.
Also, we get into our creative groove and the inspired scenes pour fast and furious onto the paper/screen. We read and reread and reread our work. Our brains don't notice that four sentences in a row are compound sentences whose clauses are connected by "and." We skim right over that glaring typo. We're so used to reading a passage that the awkwardness of one of the sentence structures sounds smooth to our mind's ear.
It's the job of the critique partner to identify these issues, so the writer can hone her editing and revision energies. But it's so hard to do! And it's particularly excruciating when the author is your dear friend. I know the sting of negative feedback. It just plain sucks. My goal is to comment with the highest level of professionalism, to word my feedback in a way that it will not be misinterpreted as judgement, and to always be as encouraging as I can be. But I worry about hurt feelings, just the same.
I know some of you have walked in my slippers (but do they have fluffy pompoms, like mine?). How do you get through an honest assessment of a fellow writer's work when that writer is also your friend? Would you rather critique a stranger or a friend? Any funny stories to share?